“We’re in a huge golden age of astronomy that’s been going on for 10 to 15 years,” says David Eicher, editor-in-chief of Astronomy, published in Waukesha since 1973. “There’s been a real renaissance of stargazing around the world.” That includes right here in Southeastern Wisconsin, where you can easily see the stars and planets at these three spots. “All you need is your naked eye and a dark sky,” says Eicher.
Find a Dark Sky
Light pollution mucks with the dark sky’s clarity, and that’s a big issue around here. South is Chicago’s “light dome,” and westward is Madison, but the lakeshore of northern Ozaukee County is perfect, says Eicher, who likes the 715-acre Harrington Beach State Park, hugging Lake Michigan 45 minutes north of Downtown Milwaukee.
Look to the Lake
Even in the city, some celestial bodies still can be seen despite the tall buildings and artificial light. Looking out over Lake Michigan, says Eicher, “the major planets are pretty bright” even without a telescope. Also viewable are Orion, Sagittarius and the Big Dipper.
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Don’t fret on a cloudy or rainy night because Milwaukee’s got two planetariums. UW-Milwaukee’s Manfred Olson Planetarium is members-only ($25 for a year for one person), but the Milwaukee Public Museum’s Daniel M. Soref Dome Theater & Planetarium offers 45-minute virtual tours from home ($10) led by director Bob Bonadurer. An observatory in New Berlin managed by the Milwaukee Astronomical Society also hosts public observing nights (details at milwaukeeastro.org).
When to Look
Check astronomy.com’s Sky Events or “The Sky This Week” sections for news of celestial events.
Need a little help locating Leo?
Check out SkyView Lite, an app for iPhone and Android that identifies stars, constellations, planets and even manmade bodies like the International Space Station.